Urban Legend came out in 1998, in the heyday of 90’s slashers. Starring Jared Leto and Tara Reid, this slasher turned the genre on its head, much like Scream (1996). This college gore-fest was written by Silvio Horta and directed by Jamie Blanks, both largely unknown. After its release, it got mixed reviews from slasher die-hards. Many thought that it ripped off Scream too much, with its use of metahorror (characters know they’re in a horror story). Although there are several nods to Scream, that’s one of the reasons I love this film. A good slasher pays homage to the origins of horror. And the Final Girl in this flick is insane—and a complete shock. Urban Legend is a metaslasher in its own right, and as the title suggests, it follows the origins of horror, the cautionary tales we tell around crackling Wi-Fi. The film’s origin is the history of urban legends: the babysitter getting a threatening call from inside the house, the guy in the backseat with an axe, and so on. The underlying mythology, the very structure of horror, is the killer’s motive. The film takes place in a sleepy New England college town, 25 years after a deranged psychology professor brutally murdered six of his students. Known as the Stanley Hall Massacre, the town and Pendleton College, buried news of the tragedy. The film makes an interesting point about college deans who expunge any evidence of tragedy, no matter how it affects the campus. Deans may hide Pendleton’s secrets, but they won’t stay secrets for long. Twenty-five years later, we meet the group of students who will finally uncover the truth about the Stanley Hall massacre, even if it kills them. The group includes Paul (Jared Leto), Natalie (Alicia Witt), Brenda (Rebecca Gayheart), Parker (Michael Rosenbaum), Damon (Joshua Jackson), Sasha (Tara Reid) and Michelle (Natasha Gregson Wagner). Much like Scream, the killer could be anyone in the squad, male or female, motive or not. And like most 90’s slashers, Urban Legend has creative kill scenes and a sick soundtrack. The soundtrack goes from Stabbing Westward to Paula Cole while flannel-clad coeds try to solve the campus mystery. Paula Cole reminded me of being sixteen, listening to Brandy, ‘N Sync, 2Pac, Elton John, Lisa Loeb, 98 Degrees, Big Pun, and Third Eye Blind. I remember being so stoked to see Urban Legend. My friends and I were/are obsessed with Wes Craven. So a slasher with the Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger, A Nightmare on Elm St) was just too thrilling. Being Robert Englund, he does an excellent job playing Professor Wexler, the sole survivor of the Stanley Hall Massacre. The group takes the professor’s urban mythologies course and notice the kills are following the legends from his syllabus. Freddy Krueger looks a bit odd in a sweater vest, without knives for hands. But I guess he always liked schools. It’s eerie how well Freddy plays a seemingly innocent professor. At times, the coeds fear that Professor Wex is the killer, but Robert Englund would be too on the nose. Plus, Professor Wexler has tenure, so there’s no way he’d jeopardize that. Luckily, Pendleton College has a gorgeous investigative journalist named Paul (Jared Leto). Paul is sweet with big, beautiful eyes, and brown hair. This film even has a bleached blonde Joshua Jackson (Dawson’s Creek) as Damon, the loveable douchebag. Damon is your typical 90’s college kid, complete with skate shoes, baggy clothes, and sarcastic wit. One of the funniest parts of the films is when Damon accidentally blasts Paula Cole’s, “I Don’t Wanna Wait” while he cranks his car (Dawson’s Creek theme song for season 1 only. I mean, I don’t know). If that’s not 90’s enough, the Noxzema girl, Rebecca Gayheart has one of the most important roles in the film. You might remember her foamy face and perfect brown curls from the commercials. That’s 90’s as fuck. Okay enough nostalgia, back to the opening death scene. I have a rule with horror, someone has to die within the first ten minutes. Urban Legend does not disappoint. Within minutes of the opening scene, we meet our very first victim, Michelle Mancini. Michelle is manic, pixie-haired undergrad, driving through a storm to return to campus. She ignores the advice of a well-meaning gas attendant, calling him a freakshow because of his stutter. Driving off in a rage, she doesn’t hear his warning, “someone’s in the backseat!” As we know from Friday the 13th and most slashers, not heeding warnings from locals doesn’t end well. Michelle is not our Final Girl. Instead of being smart, Michelle pepper sprays an innocent man and drives away as lightning cracks in the distance. It’s an interesting nod to the city/country trope of horror. The city girl has pepper spray (not tear gas) and sprays it on the first rural citizen she sees. Michelle hops in her car and cry/sings along to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler. If you haven’t watched the music video in a while, here it is: The best part of this juxtaposition, is the lyrics keep repeating “turn around…” while the audience knows there’s a killer in Michelle’s backseat. As she drives on, singing “every now and then I fall apart” the killer hacks her to death with an axe. It’s a hilarious kill and a great start to the film. Michelle’s death nods to Scream victim, Randy (Jamie Kennedy), who yelled, “turn around, Jamie” just before Ghostface slashed him. While Randy made it to the sequel, Michelle never did. Yes, there’s a sequel to Urban Legend, no don’t watch it. Joey Lawrence is in it, and that’s all I need to know. Before news of Michelle’s death hits campus, our crew listens as Parker tells the tragic history of their college, the Stanley Hall massacre. Brenda, Natalie, and Paul listen to the details of the disturbed professor in disbelief. Surely this psychology professor isn’t real—the story must be an urban legend. Right? As the group gets into a spirited debate about the massacre, Paul’s pager goes off. It’s the school paper, and he’s got to jet. Jared Leto, flannel, pagers, slumber parties and chanting Bloody Mary into a mirror—it all brings me back. Urban Legend has a cozy, flannel, 90’s feel without being vapid and boring like I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997). Argue with me if you like, IKWYDLS and its sequels were so boring that a topless Ryan Phillipe couldn’t rescue the franchise. At this point in the film, the campus knows of Michelle’s murder and we have two contenders for Final Girl: Natalie, the sarcastic and brilliant ginger, and Brenda, the Noxzema girl. Natalie is a much stronger FG candidate—she’s chaste, intelligent, and hates everyone. She’s pale and beautiful, her red hair styled in messy beach waves. Although she’s no virgin (chaste actually has more to do with monogamy than virginity), Natalie is not sexualized like the other women. Much like epic FG, Sidney Prescott from Scream, who is a self-proclaimed, sexual anorexic, Natalie is a bit of a prude. In one scene, she’s even wearing a blazer on top of a turtleneck—a clear declaration of her anti-sex ethos. Natalie agrees to go out with Damon (Pacey), but is offended when he wants to hook up in a parked car. Did she really think they were going out to the woods to talk? How can she resist Joshua Jackson’s charm? Damon is so sweet, as he tells a winding, completely false story about his ex-girlfriend dying. He attempts to use this faux tragedy to get into Natalie’s pants. Which means Damon is the next victim. It’s a sin factor. And just like the urban legend, the killer captures Damon and hangs him from a tree. Boom—Natalie hears banging from the roof of Damon’s car. Damon dangles from his neck, his skate shoes screeching against the top of the car. He begs for helps, choking out, “don’t start the car,” but Natalie can’t hear him. She drives off to what she thinks is safety, but the noose is tied to Damon’s car, killing him instantly. But Natalie hasn’t suffered enough so Damon’s corpse drops through the windshield, breaking glass, and sending Natalie off in complete panic. At this point it’s clear that Natalie is our Final Girl, but will anyone believe her? No, of course not. No one ever believes the Final Girl. The dean uses the fact that it’s the weekend as evidence that Damon is still alive. He could be snowboarding, so fuck it. The dean then calls the local police and tells them not to believe any call from Pendleton College. At this point, I’m wondering if the dean is the killer, because he keeps the cops away, and is so hush hush about the massacre. But as it turns out, he’s just a higher education administrator, making sure his college doesn’t get any bad reviews. Since the dean doesn’t believe Natalie, yet again, she turns to Paul our investigative journalist. As the two work together, we learn that Natalie was one of Michelle’s best friends in high school. They were cheer captains together, and now, Michelle’s dead. But as a true Final Girl, Natalie deals with death in a cold, sociopathic manner. She merely presses on, intent on finding the truth, even postposing hooking up with Paul. Final Girls like Laurie Strode (Halloween) almost never give into the temptation of sex, and Natalie is no different. Natalie is such a prude, that she doesn’t even like coming home to a goth-punk fuckfest in her own dorm room. Like a total party pooper, Natalie shows disgust as she watches her Goth roommate (Danielle Harris) get it from behind from a total stranger. What’s her problem? Okay so her best friend is dead, but don’t be so traditional. College is all about experimentation. Even though Natalie is a FG, she’s extremely passive. Instead of standing up to her Goth skank, she puts on headphones, a wonderful slasher metaphor for repression. And according to the morality clause of horror, Goth skank will get killed any minute and … yes there’s the killer. Logged onto a Goth sex chatroom, Natalie’s roommate gets messaged for meaningless sex by a stranger. As any smart college kid would do, Goth skank invites the stranger over for hot sex. Just as things are getting hot, the morality clause kicks in, and the casual hook-up turns out to be the killer! See, your mom was right about those chatrooms. What’s hilarious about this death scene, is that Natalie is completely oblivious to the murder taking place in her own dorm room. Assuming her roommate is having violent Goth sex again, Natalie puts her headphones on as the killer finishes off the screaming Goth girl. Natalie doesn’t find the bleeding corpse until the morning when she also finds the killer’s message. Scrawled in blood across the wall is, “AREN’T YOU GLAD YOU DIDN’T TURN ON THE LIGHTS?” That’s the exact phrase from the urban legend they read about in class. The death count is now at three, including Damon and Michelle. So the Pendleton College dean is going to launch a campus-wide investigation, ensuring the safety of every student. Just kidding—the dean rules the Goth death a suicide, citing her lithium prescription as evidence. Burying even more tragedy, the dean gaslights Natalie into thinking she’s gone bat shit crazy. The dean even manages to get U.S. News to name Pendleton College the “safest campus in the country” but the students just aren’t buying it. I really like that the writers chose to call out U.S. News by name, calling attention to the issue. This media outlet is notorious for striking deals with colleges to cover up suicide, murder, rape, and drug overdoses. To this day, some colleges with titles like “happiest campus” or “best student body” paid hefty sums for these titles, hoping to bury tragic events on campus. So next time you stumble upon one of “America’s safest schools” you might find that moniker was created to cover up a string of suicides. Or maybe that’s just an urban legend. Natalie and Paul continue their quest for the truth, and she even starts to fall for him. While everyone else calls her crazy, Paul actually listens, and truly believes in her. But can they save their friends in time? Tonight’s the night. As Paul and Natalie uncover the killer’s secrets and motives, students realize it’s the anniversary of the Stanley Hall Massacre. And ala Scream, popular, pretty boy Parker throws a rager. Horror doesn’t allow for parties, so Parker gets his dog microwaved, and is killed via forced Drano ingestion. Just like the urban legend. Who’s next? And what’s the real motive? The urban legends are merely the “how” of these kills, not the “why.” As Scream killer Billy Loomis said, “movies don’t create psychos, they make psychos more creative.” We can’t blame the media (maybe just U.S. News) because the real motive is something much more personal. The dean’s out of the running as the killer, when gets impaled on parking garage spikes. Nice! As we ponder the motive, it’s revealed that Natalie and Michelle shared more than pom-poms. In an I Know What you Did Last Summer plotline, the two girls were involved in a hit and run. Michelle was driving, but Natalie did nothing to stop her, flashing and tormenting a young man, driving him off the road. The young man died, and to this day, Natalie is haunted with her role in the man’s death. She tells the details to Brenda, and suddenly we have a motive. The killer is clearly getting biblical revenge on whoever killed that young man. And by biblical I mean killing Natalie and everyone around her. Natalie’s friend, Sasha (Tara Reid), a busty blonde, is back on campus, alone, running a sex question hotline on Pendleton radio. Alone. Blonde. Slutty. How has Sasha made it this far? Sasha broke a ton of horror rules, including advising sexually inexperienced undergrads never to swallow come. For some reason, the killer has saved Sasha until now. The killer waits until Natalie has front row seats, then murders Sasha on air. Her screams broadcast across campus, as Sasha chokes out her final breaths. A traumatized Natalie still thinks clearly, grabbing Paul and Brenda as they run to safety. Yet Paul doesn’t have an alibi for the murders and Professor Wexler’s corpse is in his trunk. Uh oh. Freddy’s dead, but was it really Paul? Natalie is a Final Girl but she’s still flawed. She makes the same mistake Michelle did by not trusting the janitor’s warning. Natalie fears the men in her life, convinced of the archetypical serial killer, a white male. She trusts Brenda without thought, guiding Noxzema girl to safety, away from doe-eyed Paul. “Gotcha!” Brenda screams. Oh, shit! Noxzema girl is the killer? What? As a horror geek, I should’ve seen that coming back in 1998. Her name last name is Bates and I still missed it. Honestly, the suspense was so high, and the focus was on the men, that I didn’t see it. It’s really fun watching the film again knowing the killer is a female. The dean fought so hard to stall the investigation, the killer’s identity isn’t revealed until it’s too late. That is one badass plot twist, and feminist as hell. Who says the killer can’t be a girl? Girl’s like revenge. As William Congreve once wrote, “Heaven has no rage, like love to hatred turned/ nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.” Though it’s commonly misquoted as “hell hath no fury” the 18th-century playwright wouldn’t have used “hath.” Stating “hell hath no fury” is really only quoting a commonly used TV episode title. So anyone using the phrase is actual quoting Scandal, one of the most popular and recent episodes titled, “hell hath no fury.” The point being, Brenda, is a woman scorned. It just so happens that the guy who was vehicularly manslaughtered was Brenda’s boyfriend. Shit. It’s too late—Brenda already has Natalie tied up. “Why?” she screams, channeling Billy Loomis. “Why?” Brenda chants, taunting Natalie with her motive. Brenda, the killer, shows Natalie a picture of her dead boyfriend, David Evans. Before Natalie and Michelle killed David, he was engaged to Brenda. Before the two could ever get married, his life was cut short. While Brenda isn’t the most believable killer, that’s what allowed for this plot twist. So I’m willing to give Noxzema girl the benefit of the doubt. Especially when she threatens to remove Natalie’s kidney. I don’t feel bad for Natalie—she got to make out with Jared Leto. She’s had a good life. Just as Brenda slices into Natalie’s midsection with a scalpel, campus cop to the rescue! Brenda takes down the security guard with one bullet. Then Paul appears to help Natalie. Natalie achieves full Final Girl status, by killing the killer with a few gunshots to the chest. And campus cop and Paul end up being fine. They drive away to “safety” without checking the back seat. Have they learned nothing from the “Total Eclipse of the Heart” “turn around” tragedy? Boom—Brenda jumps from the backseat with an axe, but she’s no match for our Final Girl. Unless Brenda’s our Final Girl? Damn. This movie’s crazy. They slam on the brakes, sending Brenda through the windshield into the lake. But as we know from Jason—lakes have magical healing powers, and Brenda is just fine. Cut to the next school year, where a new study group sits around campus, discussing the “urban legends” of the kills we just saw. Panning out, we notice a familiar face. Brenda. The killer, now donning glasses, sits among the new students, in the familiarity of disbelief. Yet again, no one believes the storyteller—that those murders actually happened. “I believe you,” Brenda says, sadistically. Shit. Brenda is the Final Girl. It’s only a matter of time before she finally kills Natalie. Though it doesn’t happen on-screen, we can be fairly confident Natalie isn’t the Final Girl after all. The rules state a Final girl must not only survive, but kill the killer. Brenda is all things: the killer, Final Girl, Noxzema girl. So if you haven’t seen Urban Legends in a while or ever, give it a chance. It may be cheesy at times, but it’s a creative, thoughtful, and suspenseful thriller. Besides, it has Jared Leto. Did I mention Jared Leto? See larger image Urban Legend (+ BD Live) [Blu-ray] When New England college student Natalie finds herself at the center of a series of sadistic murders seemingly inspired by urban legends, she resolves to find the truth about Pendleton’s own legend, a twenty-five-year-old story of a student massacre at the hands of an Abnormal Psych professor. As the fraternities prepare to celebrate the macabre anniversary, Natalie discovers that she is the focus of the crazed killer’s intentions in the ultimate urban legend– the story of her own horrific murder. New From: $18.45 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.